Ads, Revenue, and API - WowUp and Overwolf Split Over Addon Development
The popular third-party addon manager WowUp will not have access to CurseForge addons, following the
denial of their application for API access by Overwolf
. In an update on the use of their API, the head of CurseForge explained that WowUp's recent decision to
partner with addon hosting competitor Wago.io
would make them ineligible from working together. As a result, World of Warcraft addon creators and their methods of distribution are becoming increasingly split by the continuing fight over developer compensation.
By changes to their client,
they mean ads
No Longer Turning a Blind Eye
taking over CurseForge
and its gigantic addon repository in 2020, Overwolf has become mired in controversy over the function of third party addon managers, which use the CurseForge API to download the addons. While Twitch may have turned a blind eye to the practice, perhaps having something to do with their eventual decision to sell the platform, Overwolf has taken scraping and unauthorized use of their API as a
serious threat to both their business and the earnings of addon creators
, due to the increased burden on their own infrastructure. Essentially the complaint boiled down to not being compensated for use of their infrastructure, which in turn meant not being able to pay addon authors.
CurseForge does not have an official API for 3rd parties who want to download files from its servers. The way some addon managers operate today, is by reverse engineering the calls between the Twitch Client and the CurseForge backend. A good analogy is someone reverse engineering the Spotify app to stream songs from Spotify’s servers without receiving Spotify’s or the artists’ consent to do so.
Unauthorized use of the CurseForge API introduces challenges that need solving. Most notably:
Authors did not give their consent to have their creations distributed outside CurseForge
Authors’ earnings will be impacted, as CurseForge has no way of monitoring engagement outside its own ecosystem, and changes are coming to the rewards program
Downloads originated from 3rd party services rely on CurseForge servers and CDN, incurring substantial costs and offering nothing to cover them
Restricted Access Creates New Competition
To combat these issues, Overwolf shared plans to
restrict their API
, granting access only to approved third parties who agreed not to monetize those downloads, while allowing addon authors to decide whether their project would be available to those addon managers. Although
decided to shut down rather than operate under these new rules,
WowUp announced a partnership with Wago.io
Method owned WeakAuras repository
had begun hosting its own addons as an alternative to CurseForge, and although still quite small in comparison, Overwolf has recognized the competition and cited their exclusivity clause in denying WowUp's application for API access.
We welcome competition. Competition leads to better products and a more developed community. Our ultimate goal has always been that people will choose CurseForge because it’s the best way to support addon developers, and because it is the best product out there, not because it is the only option. But while we welcome diversity in the marketplace, we can’t sponsor the costs of the competition that is building its user base on top of Curseforge infrastructure, metadata entered by addon developers and our server and CDN costs.
The Fight Over Addon Developer Compensation
While some users have been critical of Overwolf due to in-app ads and
data collection concerns
, it's actually addon authors that are at the heart of this conflict. Upon taking over CurseForge, Overwolf pledged to increase developer earnings by 50% by 2022, and have since reported an
average monthly earnings increase of 700%
. Of course, many users simply don't like ads, but fact of the matter is that advertisement revenue is how most websites and non-paywalled services make money and cover operating costs while allowing general use of the service for free - a relationship that dates back to the golden age of radio in the 1920's and the rise of television in the 1950's (although advertising itself has been around as long as history remembers).
Some specifically migrated to third party managers to avoid those ads, but using CurseForge's API without generating that revenue hurts the creators whose livelihoods depend on it. DejaBlue, developer of
and several other addons, previously
commented on Reddit
regarding the issue of compensation while discussing the WowUp x Wago partnership.
Anecdotally, I have ~150K users of DCS and 75K users of DCS Classic. Users simply do not donate to mid sized popular addons such as mine, let alone the thousands of smaller addons. There are many reasons; bystander effect, uncertainty as to author identity/authenticity, belief addons are a hobby not to be profited from, etc. I started making addons during late Cataclysm. I make more in one month from Curse's ad rev share than I have received in donations for all of my addons combined over the last 9 years, including the last 5 years of DCS.
WowUp Will Also Feature Ads
Cut off from CurseForge, WowUp users won't have access to their addons unless hosted elsewhere. For most, the Wago repository replaces that, but
only if they also enable ads
. This will be an opt-in process, but functionally means that
using WowUp to download from Wago will require enabling ads
jliddev, via WowUp Patreon
However, to use the Wago.io addon provider, users will be required to have an ad shown in the corner of the app. I know what you’re thinking “ads!? I use WowUp to avoid ads!”. The good news is that you still can. If you do not want to see ads in your WowUp you can opt not to use the new Wago.io addon provider and they will not appear, simple as that.
While many addons are currently hosted on various other "free" sources such as WowInterface (which has ads, but doesn't pay creators) or Github (which is monetized by a series of subscription plans and third-party app sale fees), this may not always be the case if addon developers who have dedicated their livelihoods to maintaining these projects decide to remove their work from distributors that don't compensate them. Addons take time to create and maintain, while hosting addons and download servers costs money, but whether it comes from Patreon, Twitch, Overwolf, or ad revenue, nobody wants to work for free.
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